Fri, Sep 21, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Aston Martin seeks to pass Ferrari with US$6.7bn valuation


Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd is seeking a valuation that could top its only listed rival, Ferrari NV.

The maker of luxury sports cars made famous in the James Bond movies yesterday filed for an initial public offering (IPO) in London that would value the UK company at up to £5.07 billion (US$6.7 billion).

That would surpass the multiples of Ferrari, which makes more profit and churns out oodles of cash.

The valuation is “a big vote of confidence,” CEO Andy Palmer said in an interview, adding that the company was worth less than one-tenth its current value when the turnaround started.

“Most important from my point of view is that we are only halfway down the runway. We renewed the existing portfolio and we have a lot in front of us,” he said.

The company’s first sport utility vehicle (SUV) is coming out in 2020, giving it access to the Chinese market and a head start over Ferrari, which this week postponed its Purosangue SUV to 2022, Palmer said.

Luxury carmakers are crowding into SUVs to capture high profit margins that will fund initiatives such as electrification.

Based on its first-half earnings, Aston Martin could be valued at more than 24 times adjusted profit before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), a calculation that does not take into account Aston Martin’s debt and research-and-development expenditure — which would push the multiple higher.

Ferrari trades at about 20.5 times its expected adjusted EBITDA for this year, based on Bloomberg data — a figure that is closer to luxury good companies than to carmakers.

However, analysts are skeptical that Aston Martin’s business can command a valuation like Ferrari’s.

“We love the brand. We respect the management team. But we simply can’t see how a Ferrari multiple looks realistic,” Sanford C. Bernstein & Co analyst Max Warburton said in a research note. “They are selling a business that is loss-making on a US GAAP basis, with a weak profitability record and a fragile balance sheet, selling cars at much lower price points, to a much less dedicated audience.”

The UK carmaker is to sell a 25 percent stake at between £17.50 and £22.50 per share, it said in a statement.

Trading is to begin on the London Stock Exchange about Oct. 8 after an Oct. 3 pricing.

Even at the bottom of the targeted range, which would value the firm at about £4.02 billion, Aston Martin’s owners would be making multiples on their investment.

In 2012, when London-based Investindustrial Advisors Ltd bought a 37.5 percent stake, the company was valued at about £420 million, Palmer said.

Daimler AG is to convert its holding of about 4.9 percent to ordinary shares.

Aston Martin shareholders are cashing out months before the UK leaves the EU.

While the UK’s post-Brexit auto industry is one of the sectors most exposed to potential trade hurdles, the company is “well insulated” in the case talks break down and Britain leaves the bloc without a trade deal, Palmer said.

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